by Haley Cahill-Teubert
One of the great things about continuous open bidding is the significant amount of flexibility you have in the size and set up of the event, who is invited, how long it lasts and so forth. Maybe your ideal recruitment event is a movie night with your sisters or getting ice cream at your favorite shop in town. You can’t exactly have movie nights or take PNMs downtown for a sweet treat during formal recruitment rounds, but you can with COB. COB gatherings can be structured in a countless number of ways.
Ensure your event’s success by avoiding these six common mistakes.
Only hosting events at the chapter house.
Your chapter house may feel like home to you, but it likely doesn’t feel that way to your PNMs. It can be intimidating for a PNM to come to an event at your chapter house, especially if she does not know anyone in the chapter or know anyone else attending the event. Consider hosting events at neutral locations, even if that means you have to host several smaller gatherings. Grabbing ice cream or coffee is a perfect way to start a relationship with a PNM and help her feel comfortable attending an event at the chapter house at a later time.
Only hosting large events.
Just like coming to a chapter facility can be intimidating, attending a COB event with a huge group of people can be overwhelming to PNMs, especially if you have a large chapter. Extroverted PNMs may thrive in that environment, but your introverted PNMs will likely not feel comfortable. Our goal should be to make every PNM feel comfortable and welcome, and provide an environment that lets her personality shine. Consider hosting gatherings in a variety of sizes. One on one lunch dates might be best for some PNMs, while a full-chapter dinner might be totally ok with others. Speaking of which…
Inviting the whole chapter to events.
Depending on the size of your chapter, you may want to pump the brake on inviting the full chapter to a COB gathering. You can imagine how overwhelming it would be if you were one of 10 or 15 PNMs among 200+ chapter members. While the intention may be to allow as many chapter members as possible to meet the PNMs, it can be excessive. Consider implementing a cap on the number of sisters allowed in the room at a time. Sisters can come and go, but only in set numbers so you maintain a comfortable number of people in a room at a time.
Only allowing a handful of people to be involved.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may be inclined to limit COB plans to a handful of officers or general chapter members. When you do this, you don’t allow PNMs to meet a range of chapter members with different personality types, interests, favorite components of sisterhood, etc. Likewise, what if the PNMs simply don’t click with the one or two people communicating with her, but would mesh well with other chapter members? Not including more people is a major missed opportunity. Not to mention, putting all that responsibility on a few individuals could make them want to rush through it and extend bids without the careful thought and attention required.
Extending passive invites.
This may be one of the more common mistakes. Your chapter has likely gone to great lengths to plan a great event. Or maybe you’ve really tried hard to get to know that girl in your class so you can invite her to get coffee some time. Either way, nothing decreases the chances of her actually coming to the event or meeting you for coffee like a passive invite. If your invite sounds like this: “It starts at 7 p.m. at the chapter house. I hope to see you there!”, try this instead: “It starts at 7 p.m. What time would you like me to pick you up?” or “I’ll meet you outside of the chapter house at 7 o’clock and we can walk in together.” Do you see the difference? “Hope to see you” is passive and gives your PNM an easy out if she gets nervous. Making a plan to pick her up or meet her outside at a certain time is much more active and will help her feel more comfortable.
Making PNMs feel that they are just a number.
Nothing is a confidence killer more than a PNM thinking she is just a number. You may have five open spots in the chapter you’d like to fill, but that is not information she needs to know. Your job is to build a relationship with her, introduce her to others, tell her about your sisterhood, and ultimately see if it’s a mutual fit for her to join your organization. Can you imagine how it would feel if you knew someone was only hanging out with you because they had a quota of friends to hit? Yikes. Furthermore, if you have invited 30 PNMs to your event and have 10 open spots in the chapter, your PNMs don’t need to know seats are limited. That could create unnecessary stress and even bring out competitive spirits, and that’s never what we want.
Only hosting one event.
This may not be the most common mistake, but it might be one of the most significant mistakes. So many chapters approach COB as this toxic thing to get done quickly and move on with the semester, which means they host one full-chapter luncheon where a handful of PNMs are invited. At the end of the meal, members vote yes or no to every PNM in attendance, give bids and call it a day. You mean to tell me, you were able to assess if someone was qualified for membership and a true fit for the chapter in one single 30-minute luncheon? You may want to rethink that strategy. Your PNMs also won’t feel valued when they later learn you sized them up over soup and salad and made a quick decision so you could be done with COB and get back to your normal life. Sorority membership is for a lifetime, and your PNMs deserve thoughtful, intentional and repeated interactions before you extend them a bid. You don’t necessarily need 10 different events or luncheons, but you certainly need more than one.
Not understanding that “not right now” isn’t “no”.
Perhaps you met an incredible PNM and she seemed really interested, but when offered a bid, she declined and said “not right now.” Instead of cutting off that relationship, continue to build it. Maybe she’s not in a place this semester to take on anything else. In that event, kudos to her for being self-aware and honest with you. Continuing to build a relationship with her will be important in the event she’s able to join in a future semester. And if nothing else, you have a new friend, and you’re not out anything by having a new friend whether she’s in your chapter or not.
COB can be a wildly successful recruitment strategy, so long as we approach it with a great deal of thoughtfulness. Avoiding these common mistakes will put your chapter on the right path to recruiting the right women.